The dizzying and absurd saga over whether the 2020 Census will include a question about citizenship is still, somehow, ongoing. The issue seemed to be put to bed when the Justice Department announced earlier this month that the question wouldn’t be included. Then, to everyone’s shock, President Trump contradicted his own administration, claiming the question would be included.
The Supreme Court has already rejected the Trump administration’s reasoning for including the question. Now, DOJ officials are left trying to figure out a workaround to please their boss. Trump even suggested using an executive order to put the question on the census.
On Friday, the DOJ admitted in court documents that it was basically out of ideas. So it’s not surprising that on Sunday, the DOJ announced a new team would be assigned to the issue, according to the Washington Post.
The team of attorneys who have been working on the case will be replaced, the DOJ told the Post in a statement.
“As will be reflected in filings tomorrow in the census-related cases, the Department of Justice is shifting these matters to a new team of Civil Division lawyers going forward,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told the Post.
Sources told the Post that some of the lawyers previously on the case had concerns about how the administration had handled the issue, though the subject of those concerns isn’t known.
It’s worth remembering that this entire mess is the result of Trump and the GOP’s visceral desire to undermine democracy. The citizenship question would almost certainly result in underreporting of populations in areas with heavily immigrant populations, who may be afraid of reporting their citizenship status on the census. This undercount of populations in majority-Democrat districts could then lead to less political representation for those districts.
This is the plan that was laid out in the files of the late Dr. Thomas Hofeller, the Republican National Committee’s former redistricting chairman. Trump tried to use executive privilege to prevent lawmakers from accessing Hofeller’s files.
In Hofeller’s analysis of Texas legislative districts, he found that excluding non-citizens from the census “would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”
“Without a question on citizenship being included on the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire,” Hofeller wrote in one file obtained by the ACLU, “the use of citizen voting age population is functionally unworkable.”